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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

FROM INDIA WITH LOVE! (article first published : 2005-11-3)

Pushpa and Manhur are young lovers living in India in the 50’s. Pushpa is devoted to her sickly grandfather and Manhur is without family or expectations. He’s also dirt poor. However, thanks to some money given to him by his ne’er-do-well brother as he breathed his last in a shoot-out reminiscent of Peter Sellers’s bugle player in The Party, all Manhur can offer his bride-to-be is an escape from the privations of India to a new life in New Zealand.

Currently running at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, From India With Love! is their story, a tale which sees them survive a shipwreck to be rescued by Maoris, complete with Bollywood lovelies and frenetic dancing. They slowly rise out of poverty and sackcloth clothing to become shopkeepers … and first-time parents!

Directed by Te Radar, this story is extremely ably told and enacted by New Zealand actors Rajeev Varma, in a long black wig as the tender-hearted Pushpa, and Tarun Mohanbhai as the stolid, simple Manhur. They appear on a stage resplendent with richly-coloured draping and shiny beaded curtains with the only piece of furniture being a versatile couch.

In a show that’s just under an hour and a half without interval aided by filmed sequences, the two take on numerous characters. The bulk of these are handled with aplomb by Rajeev such as a bandy-legged doctor, an engaging robber, a camp television producer and a New Zealand farmer of Indian extraction. At times, it’s Bollywood gone manic! At others, there’s more than a hint of The Goons with Monty Python thrown in for good measure!

Pushpa’s grandfather is a puppet as is the couple’s grandson. These are handled by Tarun and Grandfather is a pure delight.

Both performers have impressive experience in most aspects of the performing and creative arts as writers and directors but comedy is obviously their forte. I smiled the whole way through the show except in gentle moments of pathos such as the scene where Grandfather dies and talks to Pushpa from beyond the grave. I couldn’t help thinking that I would dearly like to see these two actors in straight major dramatic roles. I imagine that they would turn in extremely powerful performances.

From India With Love! is presented in South Africa by BY’WAY EVENTS and the production runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from November 1 to 13. It moves to the Tusk Resorts Rio in Klerksdorp and Umfolozi in KZN from November 15 to 19 and then to the University of Johannesburg’s new theatre from November 22 to December 4.

Tickets priced from R110 upwards. Bookings can be made at Computicket, upwards and block or group bookings are available on 011 477 0090. – Caroline Smart




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